January 15th, 2004

My Neighborhood

I went out to get my laundry at 11:30 and I heard an odd but familiar noise. Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw one of my neighbors raking his lawn. At 11:30 at night. I actually did a double-take. He wasn’t doing it furtively or trying to be quiet about it – he was just raking his lawn like it was the most natural thing to be doing at that time of night. I mean, this January has been unseasonably warm, but that’s just weird.

It got me to thinking about what makes things weird. Take an everyday activity but change one aspect of it and it suddenly gets weird or creepy. Like wearing a raincoat and galoshes…on a bright sunny day. Dressing like a vampire…on July 4th. Eating cereal…for supper. (Okay, that last one’s not weird. Jerry Seinfeld has proved what we all knew to be true: cereal is good for any and every meal.) Some of the creepiest movies I’ve ever seen are movies where the characters are in a perfectly normal scene…but something is just a little off. The trees are regular trees, but the branches all point one way. The TV is tuned to a familiar program, but the screen is slightly trapezoidal. A long closeup on a person unnerves you and you can’t place why, until you notice they haven’t blinked for two minutes.

Certain things were meant to be done a certain times. It’s part of our heritage as Americans. Mess around with conventionality and you’ll get a few raised eyebrows and maybe more.

I don’t mind you being different, really. Just don’t be creepy, okay? Rake your lawn during the regularly-scheduled lawn-raking hours.

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